Grays Harbor County Commissioners and representatives from Greater Grays Harbor, Inc. engaged in a lengthy and sometimes lively discussion at this morning’s commissioner workshop.
At issue was Commissioner Wes Cormier’s proposal for specific benchmarks or ‘deliverables‘ GGHI is expected to meet in relation to receiving a record $88K in county support. Whether or not the county can or should require additional deliverables – performance benchmarks – beyond what the state requires of GGHI was also at issue. (For background, see: Commissioners Dig Into Deliverables, Ballot Boxes & Bucks.)
The forty minute discussion, which was spirited at intervals, included Commissioners Wes Cormier, Vickie Raines, Randy Ross, and GGHI Executive Director Dru Garson and GGHI Chair Dave Ward, respectively. (If you ever want to see some really, really awesome pics of hiking Mount Saint Helens on a clear, sunny day in April, ask Dave.)
Much of the conversation related to Cormier’s proposal to include additional “deliverables” – including a specified number of “cold calls” – related to the funding agreement.
Garson began by saying he and Ward were on hand to discuss deliverables to the contract with the county. “Nobody disputes the need for deliverables,” he said. “It’s just the details.” Explaining that he submits deliverables to the state, Garson said he “sent those in” and thought they reflected what’s included in the agreement with the county. He said he wanted to reconcile what he proposed to the state “with the county’s expectations.”
Commissioner Cormier asked Garson if his initial deliverables were current and reflect what he already does. He also asked if Garson’s deliverables include funding salaries and “additional capacities.”
County Requirements Questioned
Commissioner Raines jumped in, saying she wanted to clarify where she’s coming from for Commissioners Cormier and Ross. Raines said “From what I understand, other counties aren’t requiring additional deliverables on top of what the organization already provides (to the sate).”
Cormier asked Raines which counties don’t require additional deliverables. “Lewis, Pacific and Mason” replied Raines. Cormier asked Raines if she has contacted counties that don’t give money to similar organizations. Raines said she usually makes comparisons with rural counties, and No.
Raines emphasized that legislation allows the state to fund salaries for economic development efforts. “I’m not here to argue over cold calling and the like” she said. Raines asked Cormier why county deliverables need to be stricter than the state’s?
Ward chimed in, expressing concern that “We’re adding the right things.” He noted that the goal is to document performance measures in specific areas and prioritize. “The dialogue is still pretty fresh on this,” Ward observed.
Raines agreed, saying further clarity is needed so that “deliverables” “fit within the scope of work the agreement is to do.”
Garson explained that deliverables to the state are updated every three years and GGHI has an opportunities to adjust same soon, possibly in May. He said they’re presented as a “baseline” in order to bolster or adjust specific areas.
Cold Calling a Sticking Point
Garson asked Cormier if he was focusing on jobs created in-county. Cormier said he’s focused on “primary and secondary markets.” Citing GGHI’s efforts in “business retention and expansion,” Garson asked if it matters if those jobs are “attracted from outside the county, or on growing businesses in the county” so they can create more jobs and hire more people. “If you’re cold calling to outside the area to get jobs, that’s a different strategy,” said Garson.
Cormier asked Garson how he attracts business to the Harbor. Garson said by working with the Department of Commerce and getting leads and working with people who can fill those leads. He said they also pursue “other opportunities and projects” and make inquiries elsewhere.
Marketing Grays Harbor?
“How do you market Grays Harbor?” Cormier queried.
Garson replied with a number of items. Efforts include “our web site and participating in conferences.” Also working with the Port to bring new companies/businesses into the area.
Ward added that GGHI “puts together a team” on this score. He pointed to the Overstock customer call center in Satsop as an example.
Cormier asked about the origin of the lead for Overstock. “You got the lead on Overstock from who?”
About this point, Garson expressed some frustration with accountability requirements. “By not funding organizations, you’re making it that much more difficult to market (the Harbor).”
Cormier countered that “We (the county) are now paying salaries for (GGHI) employees, not just a membership fee.” He explained that he thought encouraging additional deliverables was “positive.”
“It would’ve been nice to have been consulted on that,” Garson replied.
(You either know it or you don’t.)
Clarity, Tweaks Needed
“Wes wants to make sure that if the money is going to salaries, it’s going to primary and secondary marketing activities” offered Commissioner Randy Ross. Ross suggested GGHI provide a quarterly rather than annual report to the county related to metrics/performance benchmarks. “To my fellow commissioners, it would be nice to tweak this a little bit” he said.
Ward suggested that maybe “cold calls” wasn’t the proper verbiage for the efforts Cormier proposes. Instead, Ward suggested something like “market recruitment/expansion activity.” Cormier agreed, offering to “tweak” the definition of “cold calls.”
Ross said the level of state funding for GGHI has decreased “dramatically” over the last ten years, “which is one reason the EDC and the Chamber were combined. This is a legitimate use of economic development funds.”
Raines clarified that leaving the proposed deliverables in the contract is good “as a benchmark” but that meeting benchmarks won’t be a factor in her decision regarding GGHI funding for next year. She questioned whether or not county requirements on deliverables are outlined via RCW.
Cormier responded that county requirements aren’t prohibited by RCW.
Cormier pointed out that the contract which includes additional deliverables was approved unanimously by the Board.
Raines said she didn’t realize the deliverables were attached to the contract recently signed by the commissioners. There’s some confusion about this due to illness, etc.
Still a Sticking Point
Shifting the conversation to Garson, Cormier asked how many businesses, civic non-profits, and government organizations he meets with in a year. Garson replied that they “already meet the thresh hold laid out in the deliverables.” But he fingered cold calling as a “sticking point.”
Garson disputed the efficacy/value of “cold calls,” which have also been a “sticking point” for Raines.
Cormier countered that he won his seat in 2012 by making 7,000 “cold calls” via knocking on doors. “I know from personal experience that cold calling is successful,” said Cormier.
“It depends on the market” interjected Raines. “We can agree to disagree,” she said. “We can reserve the benchmark going forward. But as far as publicly changing it, I don’t know that that matters.” She cited a variety of obstacles to cold calling and said Garson has “already met three of the four benchmarks” outlined in the proposed deliverables.
“I think if we spend eighty-eight thousand in salaries, we should expect something on behalf of the Board. The requirement is one cold call a week. I don’t think that’s too much to ask. I don’t think these (metrics) are unreasonable.”
Differences of Opinion on Deliverables
Commissioners Cormier and Raines expressed differences of opinion over the value of requiring additional deliverables/performance benchmarks beyond what’s required by the state. Raines said that meeting the additional requirements proposed by Commissioner Cormier this year will not be a “make it or break it deal” when the matter comes up for review next year.
Cormier and Raines also disagreed on whether or not funds for GGHI constitute a “pass through.” Raines indicated she sees the money as a “pass through” from the state to the county. She noted that there’s no report on how “pass through” dollars – funds sent to the county by the state for economic development – are spent, citing CCAP as an example.
Cormier came it from another angle: responsible fiscal management of taxpayer money. “We manage it (the funds),” he asserted.
The spirited but respectful exchange between Cormier and Raines included references to speculation on possible underlying motives. Cormier indicated he did not appreciate Raines’ comments on today’s morning radio on that score (suggesting deliverables are tied into Cormier’s opposition to the Gateway Center). “Don’t jump into my motives and I won’t jump into yours” he said.
Raines concurred, “It shouldn’t go to personal levels.”
After a few minutes of back-and-forth, the conversations focused on the need for clarity on specific deliverables. “We need to know what we’re working toward,” said Ward.
Wrinkle: Deputy Prosecutor Norma Tillotson noted that the contract with GGHI has already been voted upon and approved by the commissioners. (It has not been signed by GGHI.) “You’ve already adopted the agreement,” said Tillotson.
Tillotson suggested rescinding the commissioners’ vote on the agreement at the next Monday meeting and having some “back and forth until we come up with something everyone agrees on. It’s confusing to have the (GGHI) Board review something we’re just going to have to amend.” She added, “Basically, you do not have a contract on this (at present).”
Cormier added that he’d “be happy to put it (the agreement) on the agenda again.” Look for a revisit on Monday, April 24.
No decisions are made at workshops.